15. Aim Five: Il-Marċ tas-Sigħa
I derive great pleasure listening to works by Beethoven, Handel and other classicists at Valletta’s Manoel Theatre, a small but jewel of a place, reputed to be the oldest performing hall in Europe.
I also enjoy the spirited experience of the local village band’s Il-Marċ tas-Sigħa (The 1 p.m. Band March) celebrating the locality’s patron saint. The not-so-refined street music is well compensated by the exuberance of the participating youths spurred on by their admiring elders.
My sophisticated friends ask me how can I possible square such opposing musical expressions. My reply: I appreciate the refined melodies and harmony at the Manoel Theatre. I also cherish the boisterous and participatory street music revered by many fellow Maltese. Both are part of my cultural heritage.
Temples, Monuments & Museums
History is the school subject that immediately comes to mind when exploring the aim of promoting culture. In-class sessions recount the events that shaped our nation and us: its citizens. Some of these events, such as Ulysses’ (of Greek mythology) alleged stay at Calypso’s Cave in Gozo and Count Roger’s landing in 1091 at Miġja l-Ferħa, are shrouded in legend. Others, such as the arrival of St. Paul (AD 60), The Great Siege (1565) and the British Rule (1800-1964), are as well documented as the most fastidious historian desires.
Enterprising teachers reinforce in-class sessions with visits to historical sites and museums. Related worksheets encourage students to become immersed in the site and life of the place concerned. More imaginative teachers engage their students in role-play to bring to life the events associated with the historical location. Students are encouraged to explore YouTube videos, extracts from authentic documents and Google images as additional learning-support materials. Furthermore, students can produce simulated illustrated newspaper articles, photo and video documentaries. They can write historical plays and drama as follow-up activities to spur their interests in the rich heritage sites they visit. But, there is more.
The Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)
According to UNESCO “the intangible cultural heritage consists of nonphysical intellectual wealth, such as folklore, customs, beliefs, traditions, knowledge, and language.” Other examples of ICHs are: oral history, food recipes, dance, song and folk tales, which nowadays are easily preserved in digital formats. And of course, in our case, there is the Maltese language.
Students are immersed in the intangible cultural heritage all the time through most subjects not just History lessons. For example, visits to the Islands’ magnificent churches manifest our religious beliefs (apart from the tangible artistry and skills of local architects and craftsmen). In this respect, therefore, heritage extends beyond historical buildings and monuments or the contents of art galleries, libraries and museums. If the Maltese have a social disposition to be friendly, hospitable, charitable, to cherish the democratic ideal, these too form part of our heritage. Parents expect the visible and the hidden curriculum to enhance these attributes throughout the children Primary and Secondary school experiences.
Whenever you are in a foreign country and come across the Maltese flag, do you, like me, turn very patriotic? I do not just perceive a piece of cloth in white and red. I feel the pride of nationhood, a sense of belonging to a distinctive race with its own language and with all its attributes and shortcomings. If you do, then our education has contributed to such feelings.
The development of cultured and artistic persons cannot be restricted to a rear-view mirror mentality. Such a mentality only looks back at the past and the heritage bequeathed by our ancestors. Schools need to be forward looking by rendering students creative as well as appreciative of all things beautiful. There are intrinsic benefits to the students concerned. In addition, school activities enhance students’ artistic and cultural abilities to contribute to and enrich our cultural stock for the benefit of generations to come.
Activities closely related to this curriculum aim, are the teaching of Music, Movement, Art, Crafts and Design, Theatre and Drama, Prose and Poetry. Practice in the various art forms enable students to develop their imagination and extend their capacity for creative thought and action. These activities provide them with opportunities to express their feelings and experiences.
Wouldn’t it be marvellous if our children’s school hides a future Joseph Calleja or an Anton Agius or an Antoine Camilleri or another Dun Karm or a Gianrico Farrugia (Head of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic) or another Edward Debono or another Bill Gates?
Next blog: Looking After and Enhancing Our Environment.
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